Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thank God for Shoveling

After the multiple feet of snow we had last week, I must have burned 84 million calories attempting to clear a small barely discernable path through the drifts. Perhaps 17 trillion calories clearing the driveway. Maybe another 722 googolplex calories shoveling the street and 5 of my neighbors driveway mouths, since the County came only once midway during the multiple storms [which is actually better than the zero times during that last storm in December].

Anyhow, when you've given up 800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000-ish calories, you need something to replace them otherwise you'll probably cause a singularity from the speed of the caloric implosion and Silver Spring doesn't need any event horizons this winter. So what to eat...

People were absolutely crazy before the storms. Going to the supermarkets prior to the storm reminded me to some extent of the images of Soviet Russian groceries. Long lines and absolutely nothing on the shelves. There was basically no meat on the shelves except for chicken gizzards and cod tongues. Fortunately they make good sauce and stews if you can dig out those old world recipes.

For us, we dug into the freezer since it had more than gizzards and tongues. Our anti-implosive cooking efforts included the following:

  • Seared duck breast and garlic potato cake

  • Jambalaya - shrimp, andouille and chicken thighs

  • Gumbo - shrimp, salmon, clam and andouille

  • Bacon, Chorizo & Chistorra Tacos with smokey salsa

  • Braised Lamb Shoulder with Eggplant bechamel

When it was all over and we could leave, we had some flimsy clam and shrimp stew to celebrate the sense of spring on the horizon (albeit distant horizon), but let's focus on those caloric explosive dishes above.

First Seared duck breast - based on a recipe from the great comfort cookbook: The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert.

Seared Duck Breast and Garlic Potato Cake

  • 2 Moulard Duck Breast Halves
  • 2# potatoes - mandolined at 1/8", padded dry
  • 2 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped in 1/4" chunks
  • 1 large thinly sliced onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tb parsley chopped
  • 2 tsp dried thyme

    1. Score duck breasts: Take a sharp knife and score the top of the duck breasts in a cross-hatched pattern over the skin-side. Do not cut into the meat, just into the fat. Salt and pepper the breasts and let sit at room temperature for 10-30 minutes.
    2. Sear duck breasts: Heat a 5 qt casserole over medium-high heat. Put the duck breasts in there skin-side down once the casserole is hot. Sear the breasts for 4 minutes until the top is caramel brown. Don't move the breasts while you're searing and if too much fat accumulates in the casserole, drain it with a baster. After the 4 minutes, flip over and lightly sear flesh side for 10-15 seconds tops. The duck breasts will be undercooked. Place the duck breasts on a plate lined with paper towels and tent with foil while you work on the potatoes.
    3. Saute onions and bacon: Reserve 1 Tb of duck fat rendered in searing process. Remove any additional accumulated duck fat in the casserole and wipe it out before you start the sauteing. Over medium-low heat, add the bacon and onions and slowly saute for 10 minutes until the bacon is starting to crisp and the onions are soft and silky.
    4. Begin the cake: Increase heat to high. Add the potato slices to the casserole and mix well with bacon and onions and rendered bacon fat. Continue to mix to make sure potatoes are dressed in bacon fat and onions. After 2 minutes, start pressing down on the top of the potatoes. Press into a cake and continue to cook until the edges at the bottom of the cake start to brown. Lower heat to medium low and cover. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.
    5. Add bay leaves: Remove top of casserole and wipe moisture off of inside of lid. Add the bay leaves and mix the potato cake up carefully, getting some off the browning bottom bits mixed up with the softer top bits. Press the cake back down once mixed. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
    6. Salt and Pepper: Remove top of casserole and wipe moisture off the lid again. Salt and pepper the top of the cake - maybe 1 tsp of each - up to you really. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
    7. Garlic and Parsley: Remove top of casserole and wipe moisture off the lid again. Carefully mix up the cake and sprinkle in the parsley and garlic. Press down on the top of the cake and cook for 3 minutes (uncovered).
    8. Add the Duck: Slice the duck breast into 1/4" slices. Duck will be rare. Place the duck slices over the top of the potato cake, salt and pepper a bit if desired. Increase the heat to high and cover. Cook for 2-4 minutes and turn off the heat. Bring to the table for people to lunge at and consume.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Bring me the Muslims

    I'm happy again tonight that I have enough Muslims around to have a choice of Halal butchers. Since Mr Chileman had found out about the Lebanese Butcher, I had been relying on them for cheap, excellent, recently slaughtered lamb, goat and merguez. They have great kibbeh and kofta. Marinated chicken is awesome.

    But you know what, there are other butchers, too. There are some bad ones. There was this one near Langley Park that was dirty. I can't believe it could claim to be Halal, so I had to seek out others. There was an underused but beautiful butcher at 4 Corners for a while, but they didn't have enough traffic so they fled.

    However, the times are changing. There are at least THREE very good Halal butchers I can rely on within a couple miles of my house. And there are still a couple I need to check out.

    How could neglect Tom Sietzma's review of an Indian-based cuisine restaurant with a Halal place next door?

    How could I neglect the continued excellence of both Tiffin, Udupi and Woodland Indian restaurants with a quaint, but friendly butcher amidst them?

    And I do like to seek things out...and I found a spotlessly clean butcher near Nebel and Randolph who were meticulously cleaning the freshly killed and slaughtered goat from yesterday.

    That works for me.

    I just repurposed some relatively easy Thomas Keller recipe for pan-frying and oven finishing lamb chops with thyme, garlic and rosemary, with some freshly killed $3.99/lb. French-cut goat chops. DELICIOUS!!! I have another $7 worth of chops tomorrow - probably around 14 more .... peace be with YOU!